On 8th August 2014 my friend Moiz asked me to comment upon these traits in one of his facebook posts. Using facebook has led to development of an attitude inside me. It’s more of a carelessness and superficiality. Actually this attitude has been fostered into me over course of years by facebook usage. In circle of Pakistan I noted people starting movements for seeking justice for innocent and facebook appeared to have been the platform we had been missing, a contagiously viral spreading would happen after something like that is introduced, later dying a steady, slow and miserable death because those who step forward with high words and ambitions later just don’t respond to any calls from the same platform. The movements eventually die, leaving those who were honestly and fully struggling beyond their personal interest in a quandary. I had produced a significant helplessness for me; I therefore initially stopped using facebook and later chose to use it selectively for keeping connection with important ones only. The attitude is different in my British circle of friends. Words are taken quite seriously and even if I give someone a buzz after many years’ time I receive a reasonable reply. Amid this background I quickly responded to Moiz’s request hoping it would suffice his needs in which would be a nature of some sort of data collection. But I received a wakeup call next day when Moiz asked me to be mindful of the question asked and then reflect on the answer I have offered and the length of time I have spared for it. On reflection I fully agree with Moiz the traits I would like to see/produce/foster in my kids are no joke and certainly is not a matter to be discussed in a rush. I thought that I need to reflect.
For me in there are two important words in the above sentence, one is the your and the other is children. What I expect or wish for my kids is very much dependent upon what I am. I am………………. What I am? Underneath the labels I hold for myself including the ethnicity, culture, creed, race, nationality, religion, profession and even gender; I am a human being. It would be interesting to follow development of my identity the way it evolved. I was born to Pakistani Muslim parents that made me both at birth without a choice. I went to school, college and then to medical college and then to Universities which kept on adding up to my identity and actually changing it. In the mean time I immigrated out of country which again altered my Id and it continues to undergo changes with passing time with or without my agreement. Actually the Identity shifting is so significant at some points in my life that it had led identity crisis in me. For example whilst growing up in Pakistan and taught about love, affection and balance I was also taught that British are the enemies and beware of Jews as they cannot be friend. Hindus and Indians are for sure a red area you should be careful about. After landing in Britain I was supported most by a Jew and later by an Indian Hindu senior for career progression. The ground reality changed the picture in my mind, I was wrong. When I got British citizenship I promised that I shall be always loyal to the Queen. Again I have agreed that I will do that even if it is in contradiction to religion or my country of origin. For me it is a promise and I aim fulfil it to best of my capacity. But this led to another shift in my identity. My identity is evolving and it will continue to evolve; I shall be making the honest choices to the best of my knowledge to the best facts I am aware of.
Hang on. I promised to write about the traits I would like to see in my kids but I have started writing about myself. Yes I do remember the question but it is impossible to answer honestly if ‘your’ bit is not clear that what is the background of the person expecting these traits and characters in his/her child. I believe that the best I can do for my kids is to make them useful and healthy human beings and to enable them to play their role and responsibilities in the society. What would guarantee their success? I shall be focusing on the following areas keeping in view that nothing can actually guarantee it.
For someone like me a stable state of mind is of utmost important for a child’s development as a successful human being. The factors that can affect this stable state of mind is their development are many but the most important are their stable interaction with parents and with the outside world. Home and school are two institutions that would foster this stability and if missed until a certain age it will be completely missed. If my relationship with my spouse is strained, stressed, problematic or traumatic to the child it will start appearing. So is the relationship of kid with school. The factors affecting the child-school relationship can have exactly the same impact on development as a child-parent relationship. Bullying, discrimination, favouritism, racism etc. are the evils which haunt me in my nightmares.
This takes me to understand that it again comes to basic values of providing the food, security and shelter before expecting anything else. Can we all provide that successfully and consistently without worrying for tomorrow? If you can then you are very lucky. I belong to the class of those who need to strive and continue to strive every day to ensure a consistent supply of everything. For me it is like juggling to ensure that child’s stable state of mind and relationships is not affected by the demands of fulfilling the bare necessities. I would like my kids to value that in future.
Once basic are met and stability is achieved (which is an ongoing process) then I can think of appreciating what I have received from nature. A child is born with a complete human traits and abilities. It’s only that they come to surface gradually and they need nurturing for them to be led in the right direction. Being a father of two I can see how different these two fresh characters in making in my house are. One of them is extrovert the other is opposite. One is confident and the other is shy. I need to approach them on the needs led basis in a completely different manner. So I think the third most important developmental contribution to care for in my hierarchy would be to provide them unconditional support in the direction of their natural development. I would like to instil in them a tendency to pursue their natural talents and then to utilize them for their own progress and development, which parents and school are doing for them at the moment. I would like them to be self-sufficient when it comes to basics of pursuing what sources are going to serve them the best in the life. Eventually they are all inside rather outside. Having said that I am spending the major amount of my money to provide them the environment in and outside the house that doesn’t sabotage this natural process of enquiry and exploration of self.
Once they are stable, secure and on the way of self-exploration I would like them to develop a realistic sense of identity and self. Look at my background again. Having brought up in a culture of religious extremism, intolerance, anarchy and sense of paranoia that the entire world is against me because I am a Muslim or against me because it is not a just world; I have learnt that that is where the problem begins. I would like them to develop a realistic, honest and challengeable understanding of themselves and that of the world. When I offered my beliefs to experimentation and challenge I learnt that world is actually a just place, or at least it must be a just place for a growing child (unless the outside forces make it impossible) and that no one is against me and that the burden of responsibility which was put on to my shoulders belonged somewhere else. I don’t want it to be passed on to the next generation. I would like them to develop the realistic picture that we all are subject to random selection at any time but the world works according to an agreed system and like individual plays a role in school or in the family likewise the nations play role on the stage of globe. The prospects of individuals in families and schools are no different from prospects of nations in the world. The dysfunctional one either needs correction or must be ready to pay the price.
So they stable environment, security, ability to explore self and the ability to match and compare self with the rest of the world (fostered in home and school, manifested in the world) then I can think of a team-work. There is no such thing as a success beginning in a big circle. It is agreed that circle starts from a tiny, little origin and may expand to the entire world. Once they have mastered above skills in the little circle we need to experiment them in wider ones. Yes we can think about any team activity what so ever and must enable them to appreciate that the world over all discourages the selfish and narrow minded attitude. Once we are stable and able we need to extend our boundaries and interact with others to enable them to learn the same or for mutual goals. I would like them to learn the values of team-work, compassion, tolerance, mutual-dependability and self-control. Again the underlying principals are going to be the same which home and school have already fostered.
Amid all that I would like them to be emotionally intelligent and wise. EQ is as important as IQ. They can learn to understand and then master their emotionality in relationship with their parents and teachers initially, later to carry it out in the world. This I believe is going to be very difficult area for them and it would need persistent and consistent work. There is no short cut. You need to endure to be there.
If they are stable in themselves, in coherence with the others and the outside world are emotionally intelligent then they can seek excellence. Pursuits of excellence cannot be understood without notions of discipline, hard work, planning, ability to pursue and use opportunities and then consistently and persistently working towards the goal. The only way we can achieve this is by adapting these notions in life. There doesn’t seem to be any other way. School activities like sports, debates, elections etc. kindle the light and to let it develop in the fully blown torch these disciplines need to be fully adopted into the person, family and group life. If you can achieve on a smaller scale the higher achievements follow the same road to achievement on a larger scale.
Having done all above there are no guarantees; therefore we must prepare them to face the failures. It might be a single or a chain of failures. It might be a complete disaster at some point in life. Do we have a choice? Honestly the most realistic choice we have is that of making the SMART (short, measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited) roles, keep putting them in practice, keep learning from failures and keep moving forward. If I don’t help them to appreciate the reasons and prospects of a failure, they would not possibly learn how the same can be changed into a success. Faith would carry them when they will not have complete answers for them and it needs to be an integral part of teaching and development.
Finally I think the best I can do for them is to save them from own ambitions and strong understandings. Some one very rightly said that when you try to tell your child all about life; the child in return tells you what life is all about. Finding those 20 points still remained a brain storming exercise for me. Moiz, I think I cannot approach this question better than I have attempted to. If I would add anything is that parents and teachers so strongly influence a developing soul that sometimes the best favour you can do is not to allow your own shortcomings and weakness affect the strong developmental and imbibing phase of this fresh person. In other words instead of actively trying to do good, it’s best that you do no harm. Sometimes keeping yourself out of equation minimizes the possibility of harm and the natural flow is all what is needed that everyone feels is missing.